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Angry Behind The Wheel? You're Not Alone

Jul 16, 2016 05:54PM ● By Theresa Gilman

AAA Northeast

(Editor's Note: this content was provided by AAA Northeast.)

Nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year, according to a new study released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The study points to some alarming statistics including the fact that approximately seven percent of U.S. drivers engaged in extreme examples of road rage within the year. These more extreme forms of road rage including purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver.

Drivers living in the Northeast were significantly more likely to yell, honk or gesture angrily than people living in other parts of the country. Drivers in the Northeast were 30 percent more likely to have made an angry gesture than drivers in other parts of the country.

“Inconsiderate driving, heavy traffic and the daily stresses of life can transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage,” said Mary Maguire, Director of Public and Legislative Affairs at AAA Northeast. “Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.”

A significant percentage of U.S. drivers reported engaging in angry and aggressive behaviors over the past year, according to study estimates:

  • Purposefully tailgating: 51 percent
  • Yelling at another driver: 47 percent
  • Honking to show annoyance or anger: 45 percent
  • Making angry gestures: 33 percent
  • Trying to block another vehicle from changing lanes: 24 percent
  • Cutting off another vehicle on purpose: 12 percent
  • Getting out of the vehicle to confront another driver: 4 percent
  • Bumping or ramming another vehicle on purpose: 3 percent

Nearly 2 in 3 drivers believe that aggressive driving is a bigger problem today than three years ago, while nine out of ten believe aggressive drivers are a serious threat to their own personal safety.

Aggressive driving and road rage varied considerably among different driving demographics:

  • Male and younger drivers aged 19-39 were significantly more likely to engage in aggressive behaviors. For example, male drivers were more than three times as likely as female drivers to participate in extreme behaviors, like having gotten out of a vehicle to confront another driver or rammed another vehicle on purpose.
  • Drivers who reported other unsafe behaviors behind the wheel, such as speeding and running red lights, also were more likely to show aggression. For example, drivers who reported speeding on a freeway in the past month were four times more likely to have cut off another vehicle on purpose.

“It’s completely normal for drivers to experience anger behind the wheel, but we must not let our emotions lead to destructive choices,” continued Maguire. “Don’t risk escalating a frustrating situation because you never know what the other driver might do. Maintain a cool head, and focus on reaching your destination safely.”

AAA offers these tips to help prevent road rage:

  • Don’t Offend: Never cause another driver to change their speed or direction. That means not forcing another driver to use their brakes, or turn the steering wheel in response to something you have done.
  • Be Tolerant and Forgiving: The other driver may just be having a really bad day. Assume that it’s not personal.
  • Do Not Respond: Avoid eye contact, don’t make gestures, maintain space around your vehicle and contact 9-1-1 if needed.

The research report is available on the AAA Foundation’s website and is part of the annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which identifies attitudes and behaviors related to driver safety. The data was collected from a national survey of 2,705 licensed drivers ages 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days. The AAA Foundation issued its first Traffic Safety Culture Index in 2008.

AAA Northeast is a not-for-profit auto club with 62 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire and New York, providing more than 2 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.

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